Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Is 60 too old to be treated for prostate cancer?

Q. I have heard that doctors feel men over 60 shouldn't be treated for prostate cancer because they're old enough that they are going to die anyway. Is that so?

A. Goodness, no. Any doctor will treat a person for cancer if he or she thinks that treatment will extend that person's life and reduce suffering, regardless of that person's age. And many men over age 60 are treated for prostate cancer.

Here's what probably confused you: Most people think of all cancers as really bad actors that grow rapidly, damage the organ that they started in, and spread (metastasize) throughout the body. But some cancers — and prostate cancer is a good example — often don't grow rapidly and spread. In fact, a lot of men die of other causes and are found on autopsy to have small undiagnosed cancers inside their prostate glands that never caused any symptoms. These "indolent" cancers have probably been there for years. The men died with but not from prostate cancer.

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